A few months back there was a cartoon on the New Yorker which depicted a huge plate with bacon, eggs, pancakes, some kind of sausage and a side of bloody Mary that greeted a humble croissant and cup of coffee by saying “Welcome to America, bitch!”
This clearly translated the American culture of brunch – something that to the best of my knowledge has not yet caught on in Europe – especially in France, where breakfast is still not a gigantic meal – when I was there on my accidental stop four years ago, the breakfast buffet at the airport hotel I stayed in didn’t offer much more than cheese, cold cuts and bread (though I was too sleep deprived to pay attention anyway).
However, I believe the American hot dog would have pretty much the same reception in Brazil if the two varieties ever met. While here the street food staple is topped with little more than sauerkraut, sautéed onions, ketchup and mustard their Brazilian counterparts could be considered almost a meal, since even when you get dogs in shopping malls, they include more toppings than you can get on a Subway sandwich. Want some cheese on it? Check. Vinaigrette dressing with chopped onions and peppers? Double check. Potato chip sticks? Sure! And of course you can add mustard, ketchup, mayo or even corn and peas if the place makes it available.
I recall going to a food court in Sao Jose dos Campos (an industrial town about an hour from Sao Paulo) where they had this place called Big Dog that offered foot-long sausages in buns. You would buy the dog and then walk around the shop to add as many toppings as you wished – which even included tomato and meat sauce, mashed potatoes and even some sweet ones. Some people would leave the place with hot dogs that could easily weigh over two pounds, and you could barely see the sausage peeking out of all the stuff you put on it.
Sure, here in America Nathan’s includes the chili dog, cheese dog and the chili cheese dog on the menu, but nothing compares to the variety you get there. When Brazilians come here, they often criticize the paltriness of the American favorite in comparison with what they find at home. I kind of miss that one too, so when I make hot dogs at home (chicken or turkey – no beef) I often make a little vinaigrette – it really makes a difference on the flavor
Brazilian hot dog
(Recipes vary from place to place, but this one – courtesy of frombraziltoyou.org, takes the prize for creativity and generosity)
1 pound (about 450 g ) ground beef (I made mine with lean beef)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
A good pinch of cumin
8 hot dog links (on each sausage, make a lengthwise cut that goes from one end to the other. The cut must be superficial, i.e., less than half of the thickness of the sausage)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, small diced
1 green pepper, small diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups water or beef broth/stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Juice of 1/2 lime
8 loaves of French rolls or hot dog buns
1. In a bowl, season ground beef with salt, pepper and cumin. Reserve.
2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sausage and just enough water to cover. Once the water comes to a boil, remove pan from heat. You will notice that the sausages have nearly doubled in size (plumpness technique). Reserve.
3. In a medium stainless-steel saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Sauté both the onion and bell pepper. When the onion becomes translucent, add the garlic and let it cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and let brown. Stir in the tomato paste. Then add either water or broth/stock and thyme, and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and let the meat cook, partially covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice, and cover the pan.
4. To assemble the hot dog, put a warm or hot sausage link into each roll/bun, and then on top of it spoon about 2-4 tablespoons of the prepared, hot ground beef. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese (only assemble the hot dogs right before serving, in order to prevent the bread from becoming soggy). Mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise are the preferred choices for condiments in Brazil. The hot dogs can be served with the following accompaniments: steamed corn, steamed peas, pico de Gallo, grated Parmesan cheese, shoestring potatoes, shredded lettuce, chopped parsley, chopped olives, grated carrots, mashed potatoes, cream cheese, etc.. Typical accompaniments vary from one region of Brazil to the next.